By Donna Duperron
My husband and I watched “Tony Parker: The Final Shot”, a Netflix documentary this past Monday evening. This life story provided an in depth look at Parker’s journey from Paris Basket Racing in the French basketball league to his outstanding career with the San Antonio Spurs. Throughout Parker’s career his idol was Michael Jordan. He worked from a young age to have the work ethic, the agility, and the leadership qualities that Jordan had. At the end of the movie, my husband said to me, “I wonder how many people Michael Jordan has affected directly or indirectly?”
That statement made me think about how many people Don Lee has affected, directly or indirectly. As a Torrance Unified School District Board of Education member, serving from 2007 – 2020, Don co-directed two successful bond campaigns totaling 550 million dollars. “His day-to-day involvement with business issues of the school district showed him to be a fiscally responsible guardian of public funding for the everyday operations of TUSD. His ongoing conscientious and thoughtful efforts made him extraordinarily effective: he helped change Torrance schools by ensuring up-to-date rigorous academics, promoting a full range of special education services, and providing for a broad range of educational experiences. TUSD and Torrance schools are so much the better for Don having been involved and invested in them. I applaud him as a gem of civic engagement, as a friend to TUSD schools and education in general, and as a valued friend of mine for these many years and for years to come.,” stated Terry Ragins, former member, Torrance Unified School District Board of Education member.
“As the 1981-1982 President of the Torrance Jaycees, Don was a young President who propelled his Jaycee chapter to achieve much success at the District and State Levels of the CA Jaycee organization. In those days, pre-1984, the Jaycees were an all-male organization that filled the need for young men, aged 18 to 30, to serve the community, develop personal character, and secure the bonds of brotherhood. Notable successful projects during Don’s oversight were the Miss Torrance Pageant and local fundraising carnivals which raised significant amounts of money that the Jaycees then put into local philanthropy. Besides being regarded as one of the top chapter Presidents, Don’s other years of service in the Jaycees left a legacy, and in 1988 during my term as President, my team awarded Don with his CA Junior Chamber International Senator Award. This is the highest honor that can be bestowed on an individual to pay tribute for his dedication and outstanding service. Don will always be regarded as one of the most outstanding Jaycees that gave service to the Torrance community. Congratulations to Don on being named Citizen of the Year,” shared Mary Alessandra-Cook, 1987-1988 Torrance Jaycees President.
As President of the Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce from 2005 – 2006, Don’s leadership provided a list of ‘Donnisms’, to be created at the conclusion of his tenure. The list provided by Philip DeSouza, provides 26 famous quotes about their fearless leader. One of the most notable quotes of the 26 was, “We’ll get this bus out of the barn and then worry about it”, when talking getting a project started.
As a resident, Don has dedicated himself to the Torrance community by serving on the YMCA Board of Governors (1982 – 2000); Torrance Historical Society (1985 – present); City of Torrance Commissioner (1983 -1988) and Councilman, City of Torrance (1992 – 2000).
Like Tony Parker and Michael Jordan, Don Lee’s journey was one in which hard work, perseverance, and dedication was at the forefront of everything he has done. Through his innovative and courageous leadership, an extensive number of people in Torrance have directly or indirectly benefited from Don Lee’s legacy.